Monday, October 22, 2012

Halloween Film Fest 2012

Boo! Did I scare ya?

No? Well, what could I tell you that will truly scare you? The problem is that most things people fear are actually quite subjective. For instance, what if I said that Romney is going to win the election? You see, that's only scary to a select audience. A whole other faction would be just as scared if I stated the prospect of Obama winning a second term. See what I mean? Very few things can be universally fearful or dreadful, unless we're speculating on the current state of society. You know what I find scary? The prevalence and popularity of such things like: Honey Boo Boo, Real Housewives of any place, the songwriting of Taylor Swift, Liam Neeson action movies and tacos with Doritos shells. Oh, and Tim Curry as a clown. But I digress...

Horror movies on the other hand... is another thing entirely. Large audience can be lured in and terrified by scary movies. While I admit that some horror films are empty and boring gore fests, there's still something universal in how these visceral movies effect us. There's always a market for horror movies, as evidenced by the umpteenth PARANORMAL ACTIVITY that just came out.

Yet for every dozen lame scary movies, there is likely one genuine horror gem. Luckily for us, The Paramount and Stateside theatres are presenting some modern classics of the genre. These are some of the best of the best, and there's something for everyone: thrills, chills and spills of blood.

The fun starts in a unique way on Friday with...

This (ahem!) cult classic is being presented by Austin's ColdTowne Theater, an improv group who is presenting this film as a "Flip The Script" presentation. During the film's screening they will replace the music and dialogue with their own improvisation, and I'm willing to bet that this 1962 horror classic will probably not be this entertaining ever again.

Oh, and by comparison, other films released in 1962 were TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and a little film you may have heard of called LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. Yeah, this movie is not of that caliber.

Saturday and Sunday, The Paramount presents a double feature of THE EXORCIST and THE LOST BOYS. Do I even need to explain THE EXORCIST?? If you don't know, it's... ummm... intense.

THE LOST BOYS is actually a very cool take on the vampire genre, and the film celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Released in 1987, this was back when vampires actually fed on blood and scared people. Now, there's just glittery mopes that inexplicably fall in love with Kristen Stewart. Also, Kiefer Sutherland was a bad ass waaay before Jack Bauer.

Saturday and Sunday at The Stateside, there is another double feature of TRICK 'R TREAT and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.

A 2007 anthology film, TRICK 'R TREAT gained life at a few festival screenings, but really gained acclaim after being released as a direct-to-DVD title. Comprised of four stories and featuring a cast of Anna Paquin, Dylan Baker and Brain Cox, the film is a devilishly fun tribute to everyone's favorite fall holiday.

The other half of the double feature, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is the cinematic precursor to the cult TV show that younger audiences are likely more familiar with. While the cast is different, the mythos is the same, as is the same tongue-in-cheek storytelling from screenwriter/creator Joss Whedon.

Mark your calendar for Monday, because it's Special Event time!
Who's down for a pub run in celebration of the undead? Zombie shuffles are so yesteryear after the advent of films like 28 DAYS LATER, the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake and television's "The Walking Dead," so if you're a zombie-clad attendee you can put the "run" back into "pub run."

On Monday, partake of running, drinking and screaming in delight at Cuba's horror comedy JUAN OF THE DEAD. Here, Fidel Castro's not the only Cuban that just won't die.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the double features resume. At The Paramount, two of my all-time favorites return to the big screen. POLTERGEIST and ALIEN.

Oh, POLTERGEIST. The story of dangerous specters in the midst of a normal American household traumatized me as a little kid. After thrilling my imagination, Steven Spielberg (and Tobe Hooper, of course... wink wink) filled the tank of my mind with nightmare fuel. Now, as I've touched the boundaries of parenthood myself, the film's sense of terror has only intensified. In many ways, it's a gift of fear that keeps on giving. And what rough beast, it's hour come round at last, slouches itself back into my terrified heart once more to be reborn?

But wait! It gets better. The second part of the double feature is Ridley Scott's masterpiece, if you ask me. ALIEN was basically a space-plotation terror film that somehow transcended in haunting and primal ways that no one could've ever imagined. It's the film that launched a few sequels of descending quality and a recent prequel that has brought a level of reception that we hadn't seen since STAR WARS: EPISODE I. So what better way to wash the bitter aftertaste of PROMETHEUS out of your mind than by revisiting the original (and arguably the best of what Scott had to offer)?

Meanwhile, at The Stateside...
The last of the double features conclude with THE OMEN and THE FLY. One is the original, the other is the remake, but both are the vastly superior versions out there.

Richard Donner's THE OMEN is the tale of a powerful family whose son may well be the Anti-Christ. Derided by some as trashy and others as terrifying, it nevertheless gets under your skin with its graphic depictions of death and mayhem.

Young Damien the Anti-Christ appeared in a couple of sequels and Donner went on to direct SUPERMAN, LADYHAWKE, THE GOONIES and the LETHAL WEAPON franchise. Can you say, "deal with the devil?"

The other half of this twin bill is another favorite moment of Kindertrauma from my youth. David Cronenberg's 1986 version of THE FLY is an entirely different creature than the 1958 cult classic. Jeff Goldblum appears here as a scientist whose experiments with teleportation go horribly, horribly wrong. This movie shocked audiences with its graphic content and bombastic score, and kick started a new phase of Jeff Goldblum's career as "that scientist guy." Yet JURASSIC PARK and INDEPENDENCE DAY were nothing like this. You may want to keep the popcorn in your lap for this one. Now that I can watch it with a stronger stomach (and eyes that aren't tightly welded shut), it stands as a true classic that touches on our own fears about technology, disease and loneliness. Like a telepod that goes awry, the film fuses the DNA of terror and humanity that has rarely been seen before.

So there you have it, folks. Ten films to terrorize and thrill the most discerning tastes and the hardest of horror movie connoisseurs. It doesn't matter how subjective your sense of fear is, these movies are gonna scare the hell out of you.

Enjoy it while it lasts, because come next month we can turn our phobias back to society's ills, like the fallout from the Presidential election or yet another season of "American Idol." Me? I'll be fine until next spring when I consider something else genuinely scary: the Houston Astros' chances in the AL West. It's sure to be a bloodbath for the Texas baseball team...


Halloween Film Fest

The Stateside
Friday at 8:00 pm

The Paramount
Saturday 7:00 pm

The Paramount
Saturday 9:30 pm

The Stateside
Saturday 5:55 pm
Sunday 4:00 and 7:40 pm

The Stateside
Saturday 4:00 and 7:35 pm
Sunday 5:50 pm

The Paramount
Pub Run at 6:00
Movie at 7:30 pm

The Paramount
Tuesday 7:00 pm
Wednesday 9:25 pm

The Paramount
Tuesday 9:30 pm
Wednesday 7:00 pm

The Stateside
Tuesday 7:15 pm
Wednesday 9:20 pm

The Stateside
Tuesday 9:35 pm
Wednesday 7:15 pm

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Robert Rodriguez's EL MARIACHI

"Low budgets force you to be more creative. Sometimes, with too much money, time and equipment, you can over-think. My way, you can use your gut instinct."
-Robert Rodriguez 

For those who may not know, movie making can be a very tedious process. Some of your favorite movies had languished in development for years and underwent numerous revisions before finally meeting your eyeballs at the theater. Why the heck does it take so long? Filmmaking is a collaborative process, and sometimes many many people have to work together to get it made. Don't believe me? Next time you're at the movies, stick around and watch the end credits. Every one of those people had some input in the movie you had just watched. And what does it all mean? Every aspect of making the film cost mucho dinero. And while a film is often the direct vision of the director, pretty much everything has to be approved by committee to get money for it to happen.

Yet every now and then. Someone bucks the system. Unique voices in cinema make the medium diverse and enjoyable, but true mavericks in filmmaking are few and far between. One such nonconformist is Texas's own cinematic cowboy: Robert Rodriguez.

20 years ago, Rodriguez was an outsider with no inside connection to the industry. Yet, he still established his own mark like the searing brand on cowhide. Now, how exactly did he do this? Did he knock on every door in Hollywood and pitch his screenplays, hoping someone (or anyone) would take a chance on him? Did he earn his stripes by starting as a production assistant and fetching coffee for years? Did he take minor commercial jobs and work his way up to directing features? The answer, of course, is a resounding heck no. Rodriguez just up and made his own movie, EL MARIACHI, on his terms.

But wait. I know you're thinking, "You just said movies cost a ton of money to make!" That's still true. But instead of going to a studio to raise millions of dollars for his project, Robert funded his own movie... and made it for $7000. That's right. For the price of a dozen modern-day iPads, he made his own movie. That, amigos, is budget control at its very best. Rodriguez was creative, frugal and dynamic in his vision. As a result, Columbia distributed  and it launched a Hollywood filmography that have seen a significant budget increase over seven grand: FROM DUSK TIL DAWN, SPY KIDS, THE FACULTY, SIN CITY and PLANT TERROR, among others.

In the years to come, Rodriguez continued the story of EL MARIACHI with DESPERADO (1995) and ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO (2003). As the trilogy grew in scope, so did the talent involved. A cast of unknowns expanded to include Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Steve Buscemi, Joaquim de Almeida, Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo, Willem DaFoe, Mickey Rourke and Johnny Depp.

And to think, it all started in 1992 with EL MARIACHI. In this story, a young unnamed Mariachi is mistaken for a vengeful ex-con and hunted by a ruthless drug lord and his men. A mere drifter equipped only with his guitar, he gets pulled into this deadly game and fight for his survival. An action movie with elements of a Western (Call it a "Southwestern," if you will), it showcased Rodriguez as a force behind the camera. Not that his role was limited only to director, producer and screenwriter. He had a hand in nearly every aspect of production: sound, visual effects, cinematography, editing, and music. Think of him as a Swiss army knife of cinema with the blunt force of a machete.

And so now, two decades later, we celebrate this first endeavor from Robert Rodriguez. The Paramount will host the event, sponsored by AMD, The Austin Film Society and EL Rey Network. On Thursday, Rodriguez himself will be on hand to present a 35mm screening of EL MARIACHI. Afterward the screening and a Q&A, stick around for live musical performances by Robert's band Chingón. They will play music used in Rodriguez's films as scenes are projected on the silver screen behind them on stage. It's a great way to commemorate a landmark film by an enduring Texan talent.

Not many have the cajones to shoot from the hip, but Rodriguez is a true visionary whose range of talents and skills are the result of one very simple fact. Like a Mariachi, he plays by ear... but he also plays by his own rules.

EL MARIACHI plays Thursday, August 30th at 7:30 p.m. It's gonna be killer.

Friday, January 6, 2012

What's This? The Winter Comedy FIlm Series!

I don't know about you guys, but January's always been one of those "meh" months. What starts as a hangover (literally) sloshes into a malaise of returning Christmas gifts, dealing with holiday bills, beginning to worry about a looming tax season and contending with the cold and wet weather. Heck, if you're one of the lucky ones, you may even have to battle with a cold or... the flu. I say lucky because you then have an excuse to stay bedridden and sleep some of the month away. And when I finally make the time to buy a clearance-priced 2012 calendar, I always make sure it's about 30 days in, just so I can flip right past the first month.

Yes, I can get right ornery this time of year.

But wait... what's this I see?

My, my, my. Isn't this a pleasant surprise?

The Paramount Theatre is hosting a Comedy Film Series during the last week of January, and all of a sudden things look to be a little better. It's a little something to help lift us out of the doldrums, and will be very much appreciated. Comedic hijinks will flow due to the likes of Will Ferrell, Eddie Murphy, Woody Allen and Richard Pryor. There's something for everyone, as long as you're ready to get your laugh on.

The fun begins with a Will Ferrell double feature, who has come one heck of a long way from Night at the Roxbury (as an aside, remember when people thought Chris Kattan was going to be the successful one of that duo?). He's catapulted into one of the more prolific comedic actors working today. His unique brand of "everyman idiocy" combined with a boyish charm is evident in all of his performances, no matter how big or small his role is.

Everyone has their favorite Will Ferrell role, but I''m willing to bet that most can agree that his most iconic may well be the title role in 2004's film Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy. He was "like a god walking amongst mere mortals. He had a voice that could make a wolverine purr and suits so fine they made Sinatra look like a hobo." With a solid comedic cast including Christina Applegate, Fred Willard, Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Steve Carrell (and some truly great surprise cameos), it has over the years grown in stature as one the most quotable comedies in the past decade.

Step Brothers has Ferrell reunite with his Talledega Nights co-star John C. Reilly in this unlikely buddy movie. Farrell and Reilly star as two 40-something men who refuse to grow up. But when their single parents (Richard Jenkins and Mary Steenburgen) get married to each other, the two are forced to confront the fact they now each have a new step brother. And needless to say that, for these spoiled men, the news does not go over well.

Is Will a tad too silly for you? Is your sense of humor more of a sharp sword than a blunt hammer? Than surely you can appreciate the next double feature by legendary film director Woody Allen. I know some people have taken issue with the celebrity, but regardless what you think of the guy... it's never a bad thing to take in some of Allen's brand of humor. If all you know of Woody Allen is Annie Hall or this year's Midnight in Paris, this wouldn't be a bad place to start.

Bananas is a crazy story about Fielding Mellish (Allen), a neurotic average Joe who gets embroiled in a comic series of events to become the leader of a small Latin American country. Sure it sounds nutty, and when the plot involves Allen becoming the leader of a banana republic, you have to expect a bit of the Marx influence. No, I don't mean Karl. I'm thinking more of Groucho, Harpo, and Chico. Yep, it's that level of zaniness.

Love and Death is Allen's spin on Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. Full of literary references and foreign film allusions, Allen also peppers the film with a self-aware attitude that is funny but never pretentious. In fact, although a historical comedy, Allen uses a clever awareness of anachronisms to make it a classic movie of absurdity.

Progressing from these early Woody Allen films of the 1970s, The Paramount shifts into the following decades with a double feature of modern classics. One is a genuine mega-hit blockbuster and the other is a cult classic.

In the comedic world, the undisputed champ of the 1980s was Eddie Murphy. His leap from standup to Saturday Night Live was but a precursor to a dominance at the theatrical box office. Ask around, and you may get differing views on which Murphy movie is a personal favorite, but from a purely financial point-of-view, none was bigger than Beverly Hills Cop. Although originally envisioned as a vehicle for Sylvester Stallone (?!?), it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role of Axel Foley, a Detroit cop who ventures to Beverly Hills to solve a friend's murder. Part action movie, part comedy, part fish-out-of-water story, it most importantly acts as a showcase for the charm of Eddie Murphy.

Fan fact about Beverly Hills Cop: It remained the highest grossest R-rated comedy of all time for 25 years. Years later, it still stands as a comedy classic. I don't mind if you forget about the sequels. In fact, I pretend the third one doesn't exist at all. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the movie that unseated this as the number one R-rated comedy was The Hangover in 2009. Coincidently, that also has a sequel I pretend doesn't exist.

Now from a box office giant to a movie that took time to find it's audience...

Office Space made a very minor splash when it was originally released in theaters in 1999. I guess more people were interested in seeing Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and that's a shame. Fortunately, as more people discovered it on home video, it become a cult classic. The depictions of frustrations in a work environment are pitch perfect, and it's satirical views has the light touch of genius that can only be found in creator Mike Judge ("Beavis and Butthead," "King of the Hill," Idiocracy). You know, they say you laugh at comedy either because it's funny or because it's true. Alas, if you've ever had an office job... this is one of those situations where both apply.

The trailer looks silly, but don't jump to conclusions... it's gold. I've never looked at fax machines the same ever since. Not to mention, I've also developed an affinity for red Swingline staplers.

The Winter Comedy Film Series winds down with a look at one of the true masters of the genre. Richard Pryor was a trailblazer in the realm of standup comedy, and is revered by nearly every comedian working today. Pryor often had a profane tone, but possessed a vulnerability that is unmatched to this day. There was often a palpable sense of sadness in his performances, and he often danced on the line of comedy and drama.

The double feature is of his standup film Live at the Sunset Strip, often considered the finest standup comedy film ever made. The second is a more personal story, and the only film Pryor directed himself. Jo Jo Dancer: Your Life is Calling is a semi-autobiographical tale about a comedian who has overcome long odds to experience success... as well as self-destruction.

Take in the double feature and see why so many hold Richard Pryor in such high esteem. Heck, when a man's this good, I can forgive him for the likes of Superman III.

Man, is it going to be a good week. It's just what the doctor ordered for those who are (like yours truly) suffering through this first month of the year. Heck, I may go buy a calendar earlier this year just so I can circle the dates. Then I can look at the red circled dates and bring to mind two things that can lift us from being down in the dump: Comedies and The Paramount Theatre? YAY!!

Showtimes for the films:

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy
Sunday, Jan 22nd
Monday, Jan 23rd

Step Brothers
Sunday, Jan 22nd
Monday, Jan 23rd

Tuesday, Jan 24th
Wednesday, Jan 25th

Love and Death
Tuesday, Jan 24th
Wednesday, Jan 25th

Office Space
Thursday, Jan 26th

Beverly Hills Cop
Thursday, Jan 26th
Sunday, Jan 29th

Richard Pryor: Live at the Sunset Strip
Friday, Jan 27th
Sunday, Jan 28th

Jo Jo Dancer: Your Life Is Calling
Friday, Jan 27th
Sunday, Jan 28th